Mining Metal is a monthly column from Heavy Consequence contributing writers Langdon Hickman and Colin Dempsey. The focus is on noteworthy new music emerging from the non-mainstream metal scene, highlighting releases from small and independent labels — or even releases from unsigned acts.
The symbolism of life and its richness is a perpetual strangeness. I ended last year by busting my arm and giving myself an ugly hematoma. This year has been marked by intense social disruption, the collapse of friend groups, the transfer of ownership of my day job and all those requisite anxieties. I’ve finished a novel I’d put on hold for nearly four years and the gap where that novel once occupied space within my mind throbs like a tumor of emptiness. It’s cliché obviously to say that you can’t really anticipate the curves of life, that whole adage of “man plans, god laughs,” but perhaps the most comical part of aging for me has been how true seeming clichés like that have wound up becoming. The lay misanthropy that motivates a lot of black metal fractures, disintegrates, but its pieces remain, complicated by love and frustration, alloying themselves into shapes substantially more confusing and flexed than the static miserablist things we might have fixated on as young metalheads.
I once told a therapist that I was an ardent metalhead, listening all over the genre (as many of us do!) but having particular fondness for death metal. There was a look of palpable shock on my therapist’s face; after all, I was there for severe depression after a remarkably dark set of events that could only ever have terminated in therapy or death, a statement of life that sadly quite a lot of us can relate to, as painfully common if often unspoken that it is. But, and I believe you can anticipate where I’m going with this, I had to somewhat forcefully tell my therapist that, no, death metal in specific and heavy metal in general isn’t really music of anger and pain. Yeah, it sounds that way to people, and there’s an undeniable aspect of getting amped and stuff like that, but the abiding sensation for me is one of intense joy. The integration of eastern religious and philosophical images we see all over extreme metal may often land somewhere between cringe and appropriative, real problems of aesthetics and spirit, but the motivation is painfully sincere. There’s an ardent serenity here.
I compare, for instance, how my heart feels whenever Metallica returns. The quality of their records at this stage in their career I would sincerely argue is a cut above how they’re often reported, but that misses the point: they’re METALLICA, the band that made Ride the Lightning, the greatest record of all-time, the band that got me into heavy metal, burst wide that door to this place of perennial peace for me. Likewise we have a band like Smoulder, who we didn’t have space to cover this month but are absolutely worth your time, who seemingly effortlessly conjure the reverbed and oil painted vistas of fantasy that covered the beat-up used and yellowed pulp novels of my youth. That metal can span those spaces to the modernist and avant-garde literary realms that occupy much of my adulthood, that it can weave through the complex and shifting symbols that mark the unanticipated trials of my years, is a perennial blessing.
It’s perhaps childish, yes, but I love heavy metal. I love it the way dogs love people. I can frame it cerebrally, poetically, bluntly, exuberantly, but at its heart it’s a child’s love.
— Langdon Hickman,
Asystole – Siren to Blight
This past year has been one of deep defeat and confusion for me, a series of bad decisions and their repercussions coming home to roost, scattering my sense of solidity and firm futurity. As I sit, Benedryl for the allergies and caffeine for the proper functioning of my brain filtering through my blood, my head a woozy smokestain against the walls and ceiling of my study, this album feels how I feel. The bizarre labyrinth of these riffs, the way melodies slink up and down diminished and augmented passages, hanging just outside of the reach of consonance, becomes a mirror not of my past nor my destination but the sense of being lost which suffuses my present. Music, be it extreme or not, is evocation, a way of mapping the limits of the head and the heart, the imagination and the sensorium. Asystole’s debut is a map via prog, death and black metal, my favorite of all elements, of my present condition. It feels like home. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Bonginator – The Intergalactic Gorebong of Deathpot
Bonginator’s debut album is dumb, littered with extended poop jokes and LMFAO references, but you already knew that by its title. There are no pretenses to Bonginator or what they’re doing, rather, they’re a send-up to death metal’s enduring qualities. The Intergalactic Gorebong of Deathpot has a timeless appeal as it pulls from Cannibal Corpse like a buzzard pulling organs out of a carcass. It’s a proof-of-concept album about death metal that’s equally hilarious thanks in no small part to Erik Thorstenn’s charisma. His humor is juvenile, repulsive, repetitive, and ridiculous, but he’s committed to each joke and delivers them with surprising clarity. As such, you hear him perfectly when he cries, “You underestimated / My weed and now you are dead / All other weed fucking sucks / Dead from the smoke, get fucked.” Buy it on Bandcamp. — Colin Dempsey